Before Steve Darmanin of Flextronics International (Palm Harbor, FL) reorganized workspaces in his production facility, visitors might have seen soldering irons piled on spools of solder, or a collage of cords, power strips, tweezers, pliers and rolls of labels peeking through transparent electrostatic dissipative packaging bags.

The company, headquartered in Singapore, provides electronics manufacturing services to communications, networking, computer, medical and consumer product original equipment manufacturers. The Palm Harbor facility focuses on producing electronic assemblies using through-hole and surface mount technology.

In the Palm Harbor facility’s high-mix low-volume manufacturing environment, most products go through the same manufacturing procedure until the wave solder stage. At this stage, the operators and facility equipment have to be ready to move and change to complete the product.

During PCB assembly, tiny components and specialized tools need to be stored within easy reach of the operator. In addition, the company frequently performs box-build manufacturing. Therefore, facility configuration has to be easily modified.

Darmanin realized that the facility’s infrastructure was not easily adaptable to increased manufacturing demands. This hindered productivity. It was time to look for a modular, flexible solution.

"We had long, heavy, 6- and 8-foot benches that couldn’t be moved quickly," Darmanin recalls. The benches were a dumping ground for tools and materials. Another challenge was coping with functional test equipment. This equipment was sitting on the long benches. Because the equipment was only needed once or twice a quarter, it was in the way the rest of the time. Darmanin wondered where this test equipment could be stored when not in use, but still be easily accessible when needed.

Because Flextronics had specific functionality in mind, it developed a custom workstation concept and named it the flex bench. Operators would not be assigned to a specific workstation. Workstations would be task specific and house the appropriate tools and testing equipment. Operators would migrate to different workstations. Therefore, every station required height adjustability to meet ergonomic standards and operator comfort. The flex bench needed to be relatively narrow and equipped with wheels for easy movement. It also needed overhead lighting and footrests.

Production Basics (Watertown, MA) was invited to submit a design for the flex bench. The company researched how the workstation would be used, built a demo unit and provided it to Flextronics for evaluation. "Most other manufacturers wouldn’t build a demo. It was important to Flextronics that we get a demo to touch and feel before we committed to the new workbench concept," says Darmanin. Flextronics used the demo workstation in its facility and provided feedback on the use and functionality. Production Basics then integrated the suggestions into a final design.

Excited about a quality-constructed workstation that fit its needs, Flextronics chose Production Basics to provide 200 workstations. The new workstations are 36 inches wide by 64 inches high. They have an upright open frame, adjustable worksurface height and cantilevered leg design.

To make it easy for any person to position a workstation, heavy-duty, 5-inch locking casters are on all units. Overhead and under-shelf fluorescent lights illuminate the working area. Operators especially appreciate the platform footrest with an adjustable angle. Stations are outfitted with the appropriate accessories, such as laminate shelving, bin rails, central processing unit holders and swing-arm monitor trays. The workstations also include integrated power strips. This makes it easy to plug in and power-up. Unused workstations are rolled to an out-of-the-way area.

With the flex bench, Flextronics can configure their build areas in the most efficient way and quickly respond to changes in manufacturing flow. Although it was originally intended for test equipment, the flex bench plays many assembly roles. Darmanin notes that when a manufacturing line needs more capacity due to an overload of product build requirements, operators roll four or five flex benches parallel to the existing line. It takes less than 15 minutes to add the extra workstations and start assembling. Flextronics can now effectively manage manufacturing fluctuations while maintaining seamless customer service.

"Production Basics helped us all through the initial start-up of the flex bench. We were quite demanding in the beginning, and [Production Basics] hung in there to make us happy," says Darmanin.

For more information on workstations, call 617-926-8100 or visit